6: Alternatives (part 6)

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6.6 A Thousand Songs

Hampstead Heath: 24 April 2128

The machine no longer sat at an angle, half embedded in branches and bushes. Long explained how he'd used a couple of large wooden poles as levers, which now lay abandoned a few feet away, to move it away from the trees. The coils of wire, previously torn away from the metal girder supports in places, were now strung neatly in what Rick assumed to be their original positions.

Two of the machine's batteries sat upon a small trolley that seemed to be constructed mainly of rust. A couple more batteries stood beside the machine itself.

Rick and Ellie peered inside.

A second chair, positioned against a side wall, had been fashioned from wooden slats.

"Ready for a test?" Long said with a grin.

"Right now?"

"Why not. Probably won't do anything anyway."

"What do you think it could do?"

"Go somewhere. Maybe even somewhen."

"Uh?"

"Yes, I've been thinking that it might be a time machine."

"Really?" Ellie said, an incredulous look passing across her face.

"Nah," Long laughed, "but what the hell – be great if it was!"

"You figured all this out, then?" Rick said, pointing at the box that held the electronics.

"It creates some sort of a field, I think. The patterns of the wiring, the coils, and the oscillations that the circuits pump through them are definitely doing something. I fired it up and it feels quite weird when it's running."

"You've run it already?"

"Late last night – but I didn't try shifting the lever."

"Bloody hell. That could have been dangerous. Have you figured out how the lever affects the coils or the circuits?"

"I think so. It changes the wiring pattern and the frequency of the oscillators. There's a whole bunch of multi-way switches behind the circuit boards in the control box. I've traced the switches to the boards and figured out that when the lever's set to 'one' then there are far fewer circuits switched in while 'five' has the most. Each board has twelve oscillators and they can be combined so that they produce specific harmonic mixtures."

"Any idea why those particular combinations?"

"No. I think the only way to figure out what they're doing is to actually start the thing up."

Rick rummaged through the box of electronic spares. "There's, what, another fifteen boards here?"

"Yes, strange that. Can't see why they'd need so many. It's almost as if they expected the circuits to go wrong."

"These all dud, then?"

"No. A couple of days ago I set up a test rig back at the house and I've tested all the boards that were in here – those plugged in and those in that box. All of them generated signals and the frequencies I measured were all within a fraction of a percentage of each other – in other words, they've all been constructed to a high standard – even though they've all been built by hand. There are presets on each board that allow them to be tuned. I presume that's so they can all be locked onto the same one though why they couldn't generate it all from one master clock is beyond me."

Rick shrugged. "Weird."

"You fixed the interlock on the door?" Ellie said, inspecting the device.

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